Excerpts from the book:

There are three main goals to this text and its accompanying resources. First, it serves to expose the student to the breadth that is the field of computer science. Computer science is more than just the study of computers – it focuses on all facets of computation, from the design and analysis of algorithms (step-by-step sequences of instructions for carrying out tasks), to the engineering and manufacture of computer components, to the development of software systems. Through readings and the use of online resources, the student will study topics such as the history of computer technology, the underlying architecture of modern computers, the translation and execution sequence of programs, and the capabilities and limitations of computation. Using software simulators, the student will build virtual components of a computer and watch the flow of information as a program is translated and executed on the low-level machinery. Through this combination of reading and experimentation, hopefully these concepts will come alive for the student and provide a sense of what computer science is all about.

The second main goal of this text is to teach the student the fundamentals of programming. Programming is the process of solving problems on the computer, that is, devising solutions to specific tasks and formalizing those solutions in a language the computer can understand and execute. Programming is the central activity in computer science, providing an inroad to many of the interesting facets and challenges of the field. In learning to program, the student will be learning to analyze problems, think logically, formalize his or her thoughts, and solve problems. It is a discipline, since a systematic approach must be learned, but it is also a creative process, since novel approaches must be found to attack new problems. And since many of the skills developed in programming apply to problem solving in general, experience gained through this text should carry over to other disciplines as well.

The third main goal of this text is to demonstrate the scientific and interdisciplinary nature of computing. Research in various fields of study, most notably the mathematical and natural sciences, is becoming increasingly dependent on computers and programming. By studying and investigating applications in fields such as biology, physics, psychology, and even economics, the student will learn to apply his or her programming skills to a wide range of problems. In addition, the student will develop empirical skills that are common to all scientific endeavors.